Urban Homesteading is Trending, But What Is It, Really?

Urban Homesteading is a buzzword lately. 

Looking into it a bit, I find that Wikipedia says: 

an urban homestead is a household that produces a significant part of the food, including produce and livestock, consumed by its residents. This is typically associated with residents’ desire to live in a more environmentally conscious manner. ("Urban Homesteading." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 January 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_homesteading)

I think that's how most people understand the concept. 

We tend to see things in black or white - like either you're a totally self-sufficient, off-the-grid homesteader, or you're not a homesteader at all. 

In reality, it's a continuum. Even if you live in a city, there are plenty of ways to be more self-sufficient and to live in a more environmentally conscious manner. 

True, city laws probably prevent you from going completely off the grid in the city - for example, you need to connect to local wastewater services, since you can't really build your own outhouse downtown. 

Anyway, let's look at the ways you can live more of a homesteader lifestyle in your city or suburban home!

Growing fresh herbs is a great way to start growing your own food!

Plant Food Production and Edible Landscaping

This is growing food crops for your own consumption. If you have a yard, you may be able to incorporate food plants into your landscaping. (Although, check with your local Gardening Laws and Ordinances before you get started!)

If you don't have land or your land is unsuitable for gardening, you can:

  • Lease a plot in a nearby community garden
  • Use home-based hydroponic systems
  • Grow in containers indoors or on your outdoor property like balconies and patios. 

More on these topics to come in upcoming articles. 

Food Preservation

You can preserve food for your own later use. You may be able to get a deal on a large amount of fresh food from the Farmer's Market, then process it for storage. This could include freezing, drying, canning, cheese making, and fermenting.

Cheese making not only produces a delicious product, it is a way to preserve milk. Fermenting utilizes microorganisms to convert the carbohydrates in food to alcohol or organic acids. This creates a self-stable product that can be stored to eat later.  

Preserving your own food requires work and special equipment such as an extra freezer, a dehydrator, and canning equipment. It may not seem worthwhile, especially when canned vegetables are so very cheap at the grocery store.

It's a trade-off. There's more "cost" to the grocery store food than is immediately apparent - energy required to transport the vegetables to the processing plant, energy to ship the canned goods to your store, packaging waste, etc. 

Some people enjoy preserving their own food, though. And like many such activities, you can start small, see if you like it, then decide to do more of it. 

Resource Reduction: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Rather than buying new when you need or want something, you can reduce the demand for new products by 

  • Deciding not to obtain anything (reduce) 
  • Repairing a broken item instead of throwing it away and buying a new one (reuse)
  • Finding a used item instead (recycle)
    • Obtained at a thrift shop or similar
    • Traded for between like-minded individuals

Not every product can be obtained this way, of course. You might be surprised how much you actually can buy second-hand.

Other places to look include "Buy Nothing" groups, "buy-sell-trade" groups, and bartering groups. 

Beehive on a Balcony in the City

Raising Animals for Food

For the most part, you will need a little land to keep animals for food purposes. Some of the most popular animals that can be raised for food include:

  • Chickens (eggs and meat)
  • Rabbits (meat)
  • Goats (milk and meat)
  • Fish (meat)
  • Bees (honey)

If you're interested in raising animals in an urban or suburban environment, it is absolutely necessary to research what's permitted in your neighborhood. You must be prepared for all aspects of raising animals (a.k.a. animal husbandry) - noise ordinances, animal odors, waste removal, butchering, animal welfare, etc. It's not as simple as having a hamster as a pet!

Take a class (or two) - which you may be able to find at a local community college or your county cooperative extension office. People are interested in animal husbandry, and classes are becoming more and more available. 

Composting

Much food waste from your household does not have to be thrown in the trash. It can be composted into rich gardening fertilizer.

There are many different ways to compost, and there are even indoor composting systems for small households! It's quite satisfying to participate in mother nature's method waste removal solution. Again, you will have to research to find a technique that will work for you.

It can also save you money - using your own compost in your garden or pots is a lot less expensive (at many levels)  than buying it at the garden center!


Are you inspired? Or maybe a little overwhelmed? 

The beauty of urban homesteading is that you can pick and choose how to implement your "homestead," and it's still making a difference. You don't have to do all of it, all at once! Pick one or two methods that appeal to you, and start small. Find out what works for you. 


 

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